The first meeting between the HSE and the health insurance sector since private hospitals were made public was "positive" but left many questions still unanswered, a leading health insurance consultant said.
Dermot Goode from TotalHealthCover.ie, advised concerned customers against dropping their cover immediately and said that an announcement on health insurance, expected early next week, may bring some reprieve for customers.
“Positive progress was made at the meeting but we’re still waiting for clarification on many issues,” Mr Goode said.
“We are expecting an announcement early next week and I would advise people to hold off making any decisions until then.” Mr Goode said that insurance companies were hoping to pass on savings to customers, but they first needed clarity on what private claims could still be made and whether a health levy, paid by insurers to Revenue which is one third to 50% of each premium, would be reduced or scrapped.
“If these levies are not changed it will leave less wriggle room to pass on savings to customers," Mr Goode said.
Meanwhile, some claims would still be processed privately throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
“Surgeries and other essential non-Covid related treatments will still go ahead in public hospitals.
“Anyone staying in hospital pays €80 per night. But if you have insurance, your insurer will cover that for you up to €800. But the insurer is charged €800 per night instead of €80. Will the insurer still be charged pre-Covid prices?
“Today was the first meeting between the HSE and the insurance companies, before that the HSE only had meetings with the private hospitals. So there are still some loose ends to tie up.”
These “loose ends” will affect many people. At the end of December 2019, 2.2 million people were covered by health insurance plans, according to the Health Insurance Authority.
For people in financial distress, Mr Goode advised reducing the cost of cover by increasing the policy excess, reducing accommodation costs (from a private to semi-private bed) or changing cover.
“If you’re really stuck, reduce insurance to the bare minimum," he said.